The Pipeline Show is excited to be able to bring you some bonus content from our new friends at PuckLife. From time to time, we'll be posting player profiles written by some of PuckLife's scribes but that still fit the format of what we do here at Coming Down the Pipe and on the air with TPS.
If you enjoy what you read here by PuckLife, we'd recommend that you give them a closer look by going here. You'll also see a banner for the publication down the right hand side of our page.
Here is the first such profile, a feature on Matt Needham of the Kamloops Blazers written by Jonathan Szekeres...
All in the Family
Being a young hockey prospect is tough. Being a young hockey prospect whose father is a former NHL’er with a Stanley Cup ring, a World Junior gold medal, and you’ve just been drafted by his old WHL club is probably a whole lot tougher. Matthew Needham, this is your life.
If the 5’11 centre from Kalamazoo, Michigan was feeling any extra pressure last season, it didn’t show on the ice. Needham devastated the opposition, finishing with 94 goals and 159 assists in just 64 games with the Okanagan Hockey Academy — numbers so stacked that the Kamloops Blazers selected him 8th overall in the 2010 WHL draft. “They’ve got a great organization over there,” Needham beamed after the draft last April. “Things are going to be really good down the road.”
No one is more proud of Needham than his father Mike, who played in 86 NHL games for Pittsburgh and Dallas. “I’m so excited for him,” Mike grins. “It’s funny, I was talking to my wife prior to the draft, and I mentioned that if I could pick one team for Matt to go to, it would be the Blazers…I’m extremely happy for him to go there.”
How does Matt feel about following in his father's footsteps? “I get asked that question a lot,” he says. “I really just have to go play my game. But my father has helped me. He coached me. I mean, my defensive game is really thanks to him,” reflects Matt. But both know that Mike’s support can only carry his son so far. Matt needs to perform, needs the drive and passion to excel on a consistent basis. “It’s definitely up to him now for where he goes in hockey,” says Mike.
Matt’s passion is palpable and contagious. He respects hockey history and has a deep love for the game. In fact, his father didn’t even have to push him into the sport — Matt was playing with miniature plastic hockey sticks when he was just two years old. “He would walk around with those tiny hockey sticks. It’s really something he wanted, something I didn’t have to persuade him to do at all,” remembers Mike, who at the time of Matt’s birth, was playing in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, where he won the Stanley Cup in 1992.
Matt Needham has a long road ahead of him, but he is focused on his ultimate goal. With the support of his family, with enough raw talent to make him a game-changer, and with his committed, hockey-mad attitude, there's little reason to doubt that Needham will one day crack an NHL line-up, maybe even with the Pittsburgh Penguins, his favourite team. “That would be unreal,” he says, “playing for them, with Sidney Crosby — they are a really good team. Well that,” he smiles, “and my dad played there.” - Jonathan Szekeres
For more in-depth features on the NHL’s biggest superstars and the next generation of NHL stars at the minor, junior and college level, subscribe to PuckLife today!
(Photos: www.yougottalovethisgame.com and PuckLife)